The Conditional Nature of Presidential Agenda Influence on TV News: The Case of Education

Amber E. Boydstun, Rens Vliegenthart, Marshall L. Baker


The president’s ability to influence media attention is crucial to theoretical understandings of institutional agenda setting. We add a key caveat: the conditional nature of how presidential attention influences media attention to a given issue. We highlight two conditioning variables: The president’s party and the degree of public concern for the issue. Presidential influence on media is enhanced when his or her party “owns” the issue. But since public concern about an issue tends to prompt saturated media coverage, strong public concern mitigates presidential influence on the media. We test these ideas by examining presidential and television attention to education, 1974–2007. Using time-series models, we find support for our hypotheses, with implications for political communication research and applied political strategy.


agenda setting, president, media, education

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